Gear List 2017 [updated 03/13/17]

After seriously backpacking now for five years, I have whittled down my gear to just my favorites. This list has been developed over 750 miles of backpacking over those five years with two long(-ish) distance trails (the JMT and the West Highland Way). Below is my three-season backpacking gear list.

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Solo Gear List (or with a group with no sharing)

Clothing Worn:

 

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A Tale of Three Stoves

So you might have figured out by now that I like to make my own gear and I have a wee bit of an obsession with stoves. I watch far too many YouTube videos about people boiling water.

Let me tell you a tale about three alcohol stoves: the first one I ever bought, the first one I ever made, and the last one I will ever need. Each holds a special place in my heart and I’m not ready to give any of them up, but I think I’ve found that one that I will keep coming back to over and over again.

My First Love

My first foray into alcohol stoves was a purchased Trangia mini. It’s a well-built, sleek, and mean water boiling machine.

DSCN0020You can see the good Swedish craftsmanship of the stove. With the included pot stand/windscreen, two cups of water in the included aluminum pot will boil somewhere between 7-8 minutes. The stove itself weighs in at about 4.0oz. The whole kit comes in at about 11.7 oz. Pretty heavy considering all the light weight, BYOG alcohol stoves out there!

To improve the boil time of the Trangia and enable me to use it with my Snow Peak 700 pot, I made a Caldera Clone out of aluminum flashing using an on-line template by Captain Paranoia on Zen Stoves. If you decide to take this on, I would remind you to measure the pot you are going to use with the conical stand very, very carefully.

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I used a Caldera Clone fissure model that can be stored in two pieces. It was made to support my Snow Peak 700 mug/pot.The Caldera Clone provides both a wind screen and a pot support and is custom made for your pot. Using the Caldera Clone, the boil time of two cups of water was reduce to 4-5 minutes.

The only thing that bothers me about this system is that I cannot fit the conical stand in the pot and it is bulky with pointy,sharp aluminum edges that I worry about tearing at my pack.

The Rebound: Super Cat Stove

After having read Andy Skurka’s book The Ultimate Hiker’s Gear Guide: Tools and techniques to hit the trail, I became convinced that I had to have a Super Cat Stove as described by Andy in his book.

SkurkaI decided over my 2014-15 Winter break, to spend a couple days making various alcohol stoves including the Super Cat. The Super Cat is a low pressure, side burner stove, and despite the 8-9 minute 2 cup of water boil time, was the only one I kept out of the three I made that break including the penny alcohol stove.

I loved the Super Cat’s simplicity and its 0.3oz weight! Compared to other stoves I made, it is super easy to construct. The only problem I found with it was that it did not work well with my Snow Peak 700. The problem seemed to be that this type of stove works best with pots that are wider thanDSCN0023 4.0 inches and the Snow Peak 700 is quite narrow. Rather than the flames heating up the bottom of the pot, they curl around the sides, losing their ability to directly transfer heat to the pot. In addition, I seem to need always 30-40mL of fuel to get a decent boil.

Despite all this, however, the stove is amazingly efficient for its weight, and with the right pot (like my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set) works quite well.

The Final Solution: Fancee Feest Stove

Eventually, if you look long and hard enough and are willing to wait, the perfect stove will appear. And appear it did this afternoon. I was discussing design and construction with people at work today and mentioned how I had really enjoyed researching, designing, and building the stoves. Knowing that I didn’t yet feel like I had the perfect alcohol stove, I went searching through YouTube again and stumbled upon the the Fancee Feest stove.

Carbon fiberLike the Super Cat, it is primarily constructed out of a 3.0oz cat food can, but it is a wicking stove with the wick sandwiched between the outer cat food can and the an inner can which can be almost any small can with a diameter slightly smaller than the cat food can. For the inner can, I used a small tomato paste can. For the wick, I purchased a carbon fiber mat made out of a material (that to me sounds like the name of a science fiction character) called Zoltek Pyron. It is known at places like Home Depot and Lowes as a flame protector and found in the plumbing aisle of the store.

The carbon fiber acts to wick the alcohol through the gap between the cat and tomato paste cans to create full flame all around the base of the stove. The top of the tomato paste can acts as a pot stand.

DSCN0026Here’s a picture of the beauty. You can see the carbon fiber sandwiched between the two cans. Also notice a small hole on one side just under the upper lip of the tomato can. This is apparently necessary to let out some of the pressure built up within the tomato can caused by the lit alcohol as it turns into heated gas.

What I like about the stove: (1) it takes only 5:30 minutes to boil two cups of water, (2) it weighs only 1.0oz (more than the Super Cat, but 3.0oz less than the Trangia), (3) I can use it very successfully with both my 0.8L aluminum pot that came with the Trangia set and with my Snow Peak 700 pot/mug, and (4) I was consistently able to use only 20mL of fuel with the stove to get a consistent boil at 5:30 and very little fuel left after the water was brought to a boil. The fact that it uses less fuel to bring the water to a boil will save me fuel weight in the long run.

Here’s a YouTube video of the Fancee Feest stove from Shug. If you don’t know this guy’s videos, you should.

Sewing & Upcycling Saturday–DIY Gear

Today I was determined to make some gear I’d been thinking about making for a while now. I have a trip coming up next weekend. The highs will be in the upper 20’s and nights will be in the low 10’s. There is a possibility of snow and then freezing rain.

I decided that I had two needs for this cold trip: (1) insulation for my Nalgene bottles so that water doesn’t freeze and (2) additional insulation and weatherproofing for my hands.

Nalgene bottle insulation

My first task was to make Reflectix cozies for my two Nalgene bottles. Now some of you might be saying to yourself, “Nalgene bottles? Aren’t those heavy for ultralight backpacking?” and you’d be right, but they are indispensable in the Winter. Plastic water bottles and containers like Platypus collapsible bottles are very light, but don’t fair well in Winter. The lighter plastics may crack when exposed to very low temps and frozen water. So keep those Nalgenes around for Winter!

Reflectix is a home insulation that can be found at any home improvement store. One roll will go a long way. I’ve used only about a third of my roll so far and have made a cozy for all my pots and mugs and a cozy for Freezer bag cooking.

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To make the cozy for my Nalgene bottle, I cut a circular base for the cozy and then taped a cylindrical wall to the base. The result is the cute cozy as seen to the left.

I wanted a bit more insulation for it. I had this really beat up and soiled neoprene lunch bag that had been sitting around the house waiting to be thrown out. I decided I would upcycle the neoprene lunch bag and make it into an insulative Nalgene sleeve. DSCN0005

Sewing neoprene proved to be more difficult than I expected and I can’t admit to doing a great job with it, but the end product is pretty close to what I wanted even if the stitching isn’t the highest quality.

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The result is the neoprene + Reflectix Nalgene bottle cozy shown to the left. The stitching is poor but the overall concept is good and it cost me a total of $0.00 as I had all the materials already and got to upcycle a used neoprene lunch bag that had seen better days.

Freezing temperatures look out, I’m ready for you!

Rain Mitten Shells and Fleece Liners

The next project of the day was to make Tyvek rain mitten shells and fleece liner mittens. I had purchased the Tyvek a while back to make an inexpensive ground cloth for my TarpTent Notch.

I had two more projects in mind for the rest of my Tyvek–rain mitten shells and a rain kilt. Given that I was to expect both snow and perhaps freezing rain next weekend on my hike, I thought it wise to get the rain mitten shells completed this weekend.

To make the fleece liners for the mittens, I upcycled an old REI fleece jacket. It was at least ten years old and was barely being worn anymore because it collected dog hair like no other garment I owned. Once the zipper broke a few weeks ago, I decided that it had outlived its usefulness as a jacket–it could be upcycled as a pair of fleece mittens.

I found a pattern for fleece mittens on-line. I used the women’s size pattern for the fleece mitten liners and the men’s size pattern for the Tyvek rain mitt shells.

DSCN0008I cut out the pattern in the fleece using mostly the back panel of the jacket and the sleeves for the fleece fabric. Originally, I was going to make these with a liner, but in the end didn’t make the inner fleece liner as I felt that the mittens would be too thick and bulky.

I sewed the pieces together, inserting a piece of elastic at the wrist of each glove. You can see the nearly finished fleece mittens in the photo below.

DSCN0009The mittens turned out well and since I upcycled an old fleece jacket, only cost me $0.21 in elastic purchased at the fabric store.

Next, I needed to make the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I used the same pattern at first and then realized that the shells would be too small for the fleece liner mitts to fit into. The shells would need to be larger to allow for the fleece liners to fit inside. So, I printed out the male sized fleece patterns from the same website knowing that the larger size of the male mitts would give me a little more room to play.

Sewing Tyvek is pretty difficult. I had to decrease the tension of the stitching on my sewing machine and run it at a slower pace. My on-line research lead to the conclusion that the sewn seams will not be waterproof. To waterproof them, I’ll need to purchase sheathing tape (known often as Tyvek tape). Today, we got 5 inches of snow, so my trip to the hardware store to get the sheathing tape will be delayed a few days.

DSCN0011Shown to the left are the almost finished fleece mitt liners and the Tyvek rain mitt shells. I’m pretty proud of them. I’ll be even prouder once I fully seal the Tyvek with the tape.

All and all this project cost me a total of $0.21 for the elastic in the cuffs of the fleece liners. I upcycled a Polartec fleece jacket and already had the Tyvek from a previous purchase.

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Here’s the final product. Ready to be tested out next weekend.

A few improvements I’d like to make sometime:

(1) seam seal with Tyvek tape.

(2) insert an elastic cord at the base of the mittens so it can be securely closed around the forearm.

Gear List 2015 [updated 02/21/15]

Based on my work yesterday with my gear list I made a few, small changes without having to purchase anything. I’ve italicized these changes from the previous gear list. Obviously, the biggest monster is my pack. Until I feel my budget will allow for a purchase of another pack, I’m stuck with it. But a few small changes can make a difference. [Update 2/15: I finally did purchase a lighter pack with my tax refund. I ended up getting the ULA Ohm 2.0. So far, I’m really happy with it, but haven’t trail-tested it, yet.]

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Solo Gear List (or with a group with no sharing) [as of 02/21/15]

  • ULA Ohm 2.0 (31 oz)
  • TarpTent Notch (31 oz)
  • Tyvek homemade tent footprint (2.45 oz)
  • Feathered Friends Petrel UL 10F bag (will bring thermal liner if less than 20F predicted) (33 oz)
  • Nylon stuff sack (0.8oz)
  • Thermarest NeoAir Women’s XLite(11 oz)
  • [If cold temperatures are predicted, I will add a Thermarest Ridgerest Solite closed cell pad  (9 oz) as well]
  • Cooking System: Home-made Fancee Feest Stove, Snow Peak 700 minus lid, home-made lid out of Aluminum flashing, home-made reflectix cozy, GSI mini pot gripper, Light My Fire Collapsible Cup, Aluminum foil windscreen, titanium spork, mesh carry bag (8.65 oz)
  • Mini Scripto lighter (0.40 oz)
  • Small box of matches (0.20 oz)
  • Suunto A10 compass (1.05 oz)
  • First Aid Kit (2.25 oz)
  • Repair Kit (0.5 oz)
  • Tooth brush and small tube of paste (1.0 oz)
  • Small tube of sunscreen (0.4 oz)
  • Chapstick (0.3oz)
  • Outdoor Research Helium II rain jacket (5.7 oz)
  • Turtle Fur Fleece hat (2.35oz)
  • Thermal liner gloves (0.7oz) (may add another glove layer for really cold trips)
  • Darn Tough Merino Sleeping socks (5.4 oz)
  • Top and bottom merino baselayers (16 oz)
  • REI Revelcloud primaloft-fill hooded jacket(15.15 oz)
  • One platypus collapsible bottle ( 0.90 oz)
  • One deer park 1L water bottle with duct tape wrap (1.0oz)
  • Aqua Mira liquid water treatment (3.15 oz)
  • Outdoor research (1.75 oz) and Sea to Summit (1.6 oz) SilNylon bags for organization
  • 50 ft of Nylon rope (3.45 oz)
  • Energizer 7-level Headlamp (3.3 oz)
  • Leatherman small knife (2.50 oz)
  • small bottle of eco-friendly liquid soap (1.2 oz)
  • Grabber Hand Warmers (1.65 oz)
  • Bandana (1.15 oz)
  • Toilet kit (wet wipes and hand sanitizer) (3.0 oz)
  • Trash compacter bag for liner (2.45)

Total Base Weight = 11 lbs 8 oz

When I first published my gear list, I had somehow calculated 24lbs base weight. I was happy when I recalculated everything today to see that I had made a calculation error. I am still wavering on the Fancy Feast vs. Trangia + Caldera Clone set-up. The Trangia + Caldera clone weighs 5.7 oz more, but produces a boil in half the time and with a lid for snuffing out the flame and reserving the remaining fuel. Are the additional ounces worth it? The 5.7oz are almost the same weight as 8fl oz of fuel.

What could I do to further reduce my base weight?

1) Sleeping bag–In warmer weather I can definitely go with a lighter bag. I’ve been eyeing the ZPacks 20F bag (16.7 oz). I am a cold sleeper and would definitely want the 20F for the High Sierras. This would save me 16 oz or a pound of weight.

2) Shelter–Bring just the tarp during the warmer weather or purchase a cuban fiber tarp like this one from Six Moons Designs